Read ‘Em, Weep, and Laugh
Oct 13 2014

Below are some really great, entertaining, and thought provoking posts & articles.  Please check them out and let me know what you think.

Good at math (Seth Godin) – This post arrived in my in box after my 9 year old daughter told me she wasn’t good at math.  I told her she was too young to make that decision.  I told her that only after she has taken Calculus that she could she tell me she didn’t like math or it wasn’t her best subject.  She then asked me what Calculus was and she, her brother and I laughed out loud at that silliness. :-)

Reconceptualizing Your Career  and Rethinking Career Management (Scott Uhrig) – Who hasn’t wondered what the heck is going on with their career?

People don’t resist change. They resist being changed. (gapingvoid) – A perfect cartoon to describe how people react to change.

Get Lucky (Fred Wilson) – Fred appears to be one of the luckiest people I know.  A famous VC and blogger, great family, good health, etc.  He links to an article Richard Wiseman wrote on lucky and unlucky people.  He said the money quote was “My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

“How do I get rid of the fear?” (Seth Godin) – No, the right question is, “How do I dance with the fear?”

The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People  (Cloe Madanes) – An entertaining read about honing your misery skills.

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Go With The Flow – Happy New Year 2014
Jan 1 2014

¡Feliz Año Nuevo 2014! Another year has passed and boy/girl what an entrepreneurial year it has been!  I’ve been trying to figure out how to fix the spam (stupidity) hack that someone has done to my email feed, but after checking feedburner, feedblitz, WordPress, and staring into space, a solution/fix hasn’t surfaced.  Thank you to all of you who replied to my email feed noticing the insertion of random, annoying spam ads.  The emailed version of this post may have spam inserted, so please don’t click on the spam links…unless of course you are “looking for a good time via potency drugs.”  Fortunately, the post itself as it shows up on my blog and the RSS feed do not have spam links, just the email feed and I have no idea why!

While I am writing this post, I’m listening to final mixes of two of my songs: Save Me From Myself and Soul Escape.  Pretty soon you can sing them in your shower without worries of copyright violations!  :-)  It’s been close to a 3 year process to get to this point, but I can check “having a professional song produced” off my list soon…

Just like Fred Wilson, I am Unresolved this year, and I couldn’t feel happier about it.  When you think about it, it’s almost kind of stupid to make resolutions when so much of life is out of your freaking control.  Sure, I can eat better, exercise, laugh more, cry more, make sure I have the best career ever, piss off more people, etc. but it seems to me it’s best to just “Go With The Flow,” be as honest as you can be, and “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”  Why humans don’t get this simplicity (see Scott Adams’ article below) after thousands of years is perplexing.  We must be a slow species that likes to complicate things.

But in other good reads:

The Non-Movie Version of Entrepreneurship – Francine Hardaway

How to Burst the “Filter Bubble” that Protects Us from Opposing Views – MIT Technology Review

Changing What You Do Versus Changing How You Think – IttyBiz

Simplifiers and Optimizers – BoingBoing by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

Rethinking the Job Search – Scott Uhrig of White Rock Partners (also relevant to Sales and Fundraising)

I Don’t Need To Search Anymore – gaping void

The care and feeding (and shunning) of vampires – Seth Godin

To copy what I posted on facebook: “Happy New Year! May 2014 be full of love, laughter, joy, and mind blowing (lovely) adventures with good health and peace mixed in for good luck!

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, holiday, Just For Fun, music | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thanksgivukkah and Black Friday
Dec 1 2013

This year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided.  In the US, apparently the retailers decided to start the crazy sales activity just that much earlier and open up Thanksgiving eve.  I guess the news folks will tell us if it was worth it.  I didn’t venture out or even online to purchase anything on “Black Friday,” Thursday, or whatever.  I know people who did.  I did venture out today (Sunday) to Target to return some things and get some basics, but there was only the normal crowd there.

At any rate, I’m thankful that I can choose to shop or not shop.  I’m thankful for many, many things…mostly that I’m here right now in this intersection of space & time with many wonderful people around me.  Plus, I’m easily able to type this post and share these articles with you:

Our Self-Inflicted Complexity – Harvard Business Review

The Fall Of The Alphas – A VC, Fred Wilson (I just now bought the Kindle version of the book)

10 Life Lessons You Should Unlearn – Huffington Post (“Problems are bad. It’s important to stay happy. I’m irreparably damaged by my past. Working hard leads to success. Success is the opposite of failure.  It matters what people think of me.  We should think rationally about our decisions. The pretty girls get all the good stuff.  If all my wishes came true right now, life would be perfect.  Loss is terrible.”)

The first lie… – Seth Godin

What “no” means – Seth Godin

Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime – Scientific American

The Paradoxical Traits of Resilient People - Fast Company

And of course a song and music video: Let Her Go by Passenger

Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Staring at the ceiling in the dark
Same old empty feeling in your heart
‘Cause love comes slow and it goes so fast

 

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Happy Father’s Day – 2013
Jun 16 2013

Happy Father’s Day to all the great and dedicated dads out there.  It seems to me the role of “father” has become much more complex in the first world.  They have much more responsibility for parenting than they used to when I and my friends were growing up.  I think that increased role will have a very positive impact on our kids.  It may even create more empathy for both the mother and father roles in our society.

My life has been very busy, so blog posting has dropped down on the priority list.  I have many parenting, business, and music related things to write about so with any luck, time, and breathing room, I will be able to start writing more frequently.  But until then, here are a couple of thoughtful links on this Father’s Day:

Parenting – A VC by Fred Wilson

Daniel Dennett’s seven tools for thinking – The Guardian

Angry is a habit – Seth Godin

Author: | Filed under: Father's Day, parenting | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Lincoln and Dealing with Change
Nov 18 2012

I saw the movie Lincoln last night. I left this comment on Fred Wilson’s post about the movie:

I saw the movie last night and was deeply impressed with how it was done and the actors rendition of all of their parts. Watching a movie like this gives you perspective on what we have to deal with today in most of our (very lucky) daily lives. The fear & demons Lincoln had to wrestle with must have been tremendous. One line I remember went something like “We can show people that democracy does not have to be chaos.”

As I observe start-ups and small businesses I’ve been involved with, those who have thrived attempt to manage chaos with some sensible structure, coordination among team members, & meaning. Those who don’t have that belief/skill set tend to build continuously chaotic companies with high turnover. Like with a child, the first year or so of chaos and sleepless nights are understandable, but after that healthy parents and healthy kids are expected to start “growing” up so to speak and communicate differently.”

On facebook I posted: “The movie Lincoln is a must see. So well done. Saw it last night. Definitely gives you perspective regarding what people were dealing with then vs. now. Standing up for your beliefs in a smart, intelligent, strategic way is not easy and most go the easy route because the fear of rejection is so huge in many of us.

The amount of change in our daily lives today gives us very little time to think about our decisions.  We often make decisions hastily without taking the time to analyze what is sometimes an overwhelming amount of information.  We often don’t make decisions at all because we are too used to the the status quo, we worry what people will think of us, or we are paralyzed with the amount of information we feel we need to sift through.  In Lincoln’s time the conflicting information he was receiving was also tremendous, and in his situation there were people’s lives at stake…not just jobs, profits, losses, and Wall Street earnings that many of us deal with today here in the United States.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, movie reviews, working dad | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Very Interesting And Provocative Blog Posts
May 10 2012

I wish I had more time to come up with compelling, informative posts, but one must prioritize.  So instead, I’m fortunate enough to happen upon some interesting ones

Eleven Compelling Startup Pitch Archetypes (with examples from YC companies).  A really easy to read summary of the types of pitches based on the type of company.  A must read for all entrepreneurs trying to fundraise.

Same Sex Marriage on AVC by Fred Wilson on President Obama’s support of same sex marriages.

Unforgiven: Inside America’s Student Loan Bubble about the student loan crisis.

Love And 6 Other Things Your Subconscious Mind ControlsAs a result, scientists are becoming increasingly convinced that how we experience the world – our perception, behavior, memory, and social judgment – is largely driven by the mind’s subliminal processes and not by the conscious ones, as we have long believed.”

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Insta-Success, Connected But Alone, Finding Your Voice
Apr 12 2012

I, and many others, still can’t fully figure out how Instagram got sold for $1 billion to facebook within 17 months of being founded.  Why are some people in the right place at the right time doing the proverbial right thing to bring them that kind of lottery like winnings?  It makes my head hurt trying to rationalize it all, but congratulations to them!  May they use their new found wealth wisely.

A friend sent me a link to this Ted Talk called Connected, but alone? by Sherry Turkle.  It’s an interesting take on the dangers of us being connected virtually but not personally.  I agree with some but not all of what she says.  We are a much more distracted society and what we define as being alone and lonely have changed over time.  She says that people flock to social networks because deep down they feel like no one is listening and said “we expect more from technology than we do from each other and being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved.”  And more profound “I share therefore I am.” And “Solitude is where you find yourself.”

Fred Wilson, A-list venture capitalist blogger, posted about Finding Your Voice and how blogging has helped him and his wife find and express their voices.  Social media has helped him and others find their place in the Internet world.  Arguably, there are some out there who many of us would be fine not reading or hearing about, but for many of us who struggled to express ourselves growing up, it’s a great medium to share and discover we are not alone in the way we think, feel, and process information.

Author: | Filed under: blogging, entrepreneurship, random stuff, social media, social networks | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Management Teams, MBA Monday’s, The Crucible
Feb 20 2012

Fred Wilson has been doing a very interesting series on Management Teams for the last several weeks on his blog.  It is part of his MBA Monday series and this section was on building and maintaining the management team. They just did a wrap up post called The Management Team – Guest Post By Jerry Colonna – The Crucible of Leadership.  It’s well written and gets to the heart of the matter of what makes the difference between good and great leaders and managers.  So much easier to say than do.  I feel like I’ve been through a Crucible and I hope that I’ll get an opportunity to see what I’ve learned about the topic and practice my leadership skills.  Empowering people and getting things done are near and dear to my heart and apparently seem to align to my strengths according to Strength’s Finder 2.0.

Bottom line is that we are all different.  We aren’t Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and we shouldn’t strive to be.  We need to find that place where our passions, skills, and opportunity come together. constantly look inward and then work on it until something happens.  We need to accept and stare our demons down as we can’t fight them because the more we do, the more they stick around to haunt us.  Surrender to the demons and they will surrender to you or leave you be is what Colonna mentions in his post.

Time Is The Undeniable Constraint and if you find that rare person who has put so much into looking inward then as I said in my recent post on Leadership, Management and Unicorns, try to get a front row seat to see how they do it.

Author: | Filed under: bill gates, entrepreneurship, steve jobs, venture capital | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

What Does It Mean To Be A Risk Taker
Jun 26 2011

Entrepreneurs are often labeled as risk takers.  Crazy and insane.  It’s mostly true but people view risk differently.  What might look absolutely insane to one person is actually calculated risk taking.  Most businesses fail or don’t make it to the big acquisitions, so yes all entrepreneurs (especially in technology) are taking big gambles with their finances and personal lives.  In several cases both end up in disarray.  Fred Wilson wrote some great posts recently on company exits.  One is There Aren’t Many Venture Backed IPOs and the other is There Aren’t Many Exits Over $100mm.

What I have anecdotal-ly observed is that the entrepreneurs who end up most successful have first a) a lot of luck and good timing and also b) the ability to take calculated risks.  They jump but not without a parachute in their backpack or without first having calculated the odds of success and failure on each particular task.

I did something crazy today.  For the first time ever, the kids and I accidentally locked ourselves outside of the house, but fortunately the garage was still open.   Thankfully, it’s still light outside late since it’s summer.  So with the help of my neighbor’s flashlight and him watching the kids, I walked across the attic in this hot, sticky heat and made it to the inside entry.  I could have fallen through the roof or a multiple other things could have happened, but somehow I had consciously and unconsciously run through several scenarios in my mind including I knew others had been in the attic doing work in the past and no one had fallen, although the house is over 30 years old it was good construction, I was in pretty good shape, etc. so I figured it was worth the risk.  In this case everything turned out OK, and I lived to write this post.  I guess all that tree and roof climbing as a kid paid off!

Now if I can only translate that climbing & physical risk taking ability into starting or being a part of a successful multi-million dollar business… :-)

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, random stuff | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Interesting Reads and Fortunes
Jun 13 2010

Here are a few interesting things that have hit my in box and show my penchant for Chinese food to read and think about:

Articles, Posts, & Cartoons

Why Change Is So Hard: Self-Control Is Exhaustible – Fast Company.

People won’t change because they’re too lazy. Well, I’m here to stick up for the lazy people. In fact, I want to argue that what looks like laziness is actually exhaustion. The proof comes from a psychology study that is absolutely fascinating.”

“This brings us back to the point I promised I’d make: That what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. Change wears people out—even well-intentioned people will simply run out of fuel.”

I found the short article interesting from a business and personal perspective.  Organizations and people can handle only so much change/stress that’s why it’s even more amazing to me when entrepreneurial endeavors make it because the speed and quantity of change that a start-up and the people involved experience is enormous.  Burn out happens often and frequently.  I’m a fairly high (and usually efficient) multi-tasker, but when I’m trying to process a lot of change and exerting a lot of self-control, it can feel exhausting which slows me down.  I also see how it affects people/entrepreneurs in the work environment.

Entrepreneurial Fog – A gapingvoid cartoon.  As an entrepreneur who has had a very interesting set of experiences in her life, many of Hugh’s cartoons resonate with me.  I did a couple of posts a while back on some of his cartoons called Love and Entrepreneurs Part 1 and Part 2.

“Army Generals talk about “The Fog of War.”  No matter how good your preparation is, it all means little once the actual fighting starts.

It seems to me that many things in life are foggy and one characteristic trait of entrepreneurs and great leaders is that they are comfortable with the fog…well maybe not comfortable with it but have the wherewithal not to let it completely overwhelm them like in some scary, horror flick.

Passing it On – A post by my favorite VC blogger, Fred Wilson about one of their firms junior investment professionals, Andrew, that is moving on after his two year stint, teaching their new professional Christina about “proceeds by class of stock.”  The teacher in me liked this post.  Although I’ve only officially taught a short time in my career (i.e., a handful of undergraduate classes in entrepreneurship), I’ve always liked to teach people things.  It must be in the blood because my grandfather and my mother were both professors at different times during their careers.  It’s always an amazing/rewarding moment when you see a student/employee/person ‘get’ something for the first time or you see them applying skills they may or may not have realized they learned from the class.  I sometimes hear from my former students via facebook and it’s really hard to explain the feeling you get when they mention how things they learned are still helping them today.  I really did want to comment on that post, but I think I’ll have to refer back to the ‘laziness/exhaustion’ article I mention above…when I finally had a few minutes, I felt the time to comment had passed.

Fortunes

A while back I did a series of posts based on fortunes from fortune cookies I had received and one post almost resulted in me being mentioned in a New York Times article.  As I was searching for the  links to my previous posts on the topic, I discovered one I did on November 2, 2008 called Business Is Like War; Easy To Begin But Hard To Stop where the fortune actually said “Love is like war; easy to begin but hard to stop.” I compared Love and Business in an actual table format!  How…how…business like of me.  The end result was most businesses and marriages fail (as people tend to define failure – something ceasing to exist) in some form or fashion.  This is when I sometimes look back on what I’ve written and realize I forget that I actually wrote it.  Those words seem to describe the disillusionment I was entering into or maybe it was the illusion I was waking up from at the time and that was over a year and a half ago.  Weird.  Anyway, here are some fortunes I or others have recently had the fortune of receiving.  Like some others, I think that the fortune cookie industry has run out of fortunes and has decided to move into giving mere random statements:

You are a fun-loving person and will find much happiness.

Life is like playing the violin in the public and learning the instrument as one goes on.

Love is the greatest gift of all.

You will be showered with good luck.

Be careful or your true idiocy will shine through. (I’m half joking on this one because someone I was sitting next to got something similar to this, but I can’t remember the exact words but the gist was the same.)

Chocolate covered raisins cure all ailments! (Yes, I made that one up because I’m about go eat some)

I’ll blame it on the entrepreneurial fog and change exhaustion as to why I’m not interested in doing full posts where I create compare/contrast tables on any of the aforementioned fortunes. :-)

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, Just For Fun, marriage | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?
Feb 22 2010

Am I back to consistently blogging?  I’m not sure yet.  Believe me it’s been hard not to write.  I’m still sorting out a lot of personal stuff.    But I’ve run across a few blog posts on this age old question recently and felt compelled to do a post about it.

Fred Wilson did a post called Nature vs Nurture and Entrepreneurship and he says “WEP is run by Professor Raffi Amit and as we were making our way from one meeting to another, I said to Raffi that “you can’t teach people to be entrepreneurs but you can teach entrepreneurs business.” He replied to me that his research into the topic suggests that “there are no unique and defining characteristics of entrepreneurs” which leads him to believe that you can in fact teach people to be entrepreneurs.”  Fred lists his characteristics of an entrepreneur.  The post currently has 278 comments.

The topic of women entrepreneurs was raised by Rachel Happe by her comment below and many others had a discussion around her comment.

“At the risk of making this a feminist position… which it’s not really, I would like to add the female perspective because I’ve been a woman on management teams a couple of start-ups and am now starting my own thing. I have to say, I find that the whole VC/young entrepreneur vibe makes me roll my eyes a lot. A lot of older, richer men with money stroking the egos of a bunch of younger men who have an idea and think a lot about themselves. Ugh – turns me off of the entire VC model. So I offer an alternative set of characteristics that I feel more accurately portray me (and I think may be generalizable):

1) A stubborn belief in an idea or alternately a stubborn belief that there is a much better/more efficient way of doing something

2) Confidence (I actually think arrogant people are some of the least self-assured people I know but I digress)

3) A belief that the reward vs. risk of starting a new venture is higher than the reward/risk of working for someone else.

4) An ability to see and articulate a solution

4) An ability to construct a vision and sell it to many others

5) A magnetic personality – to attract talent, partners, investors, etc.

Just my 2 cents.”

I left the following comment:

Having taught entrepreneurship myself at the UT Austin McComb’s school of business and falling into the entrepreneur category myself (2 tech start-ups), I tend to agree more with ‘you can teach entrepreneur’s business’ rather than you can teach people to be entrepreneur’s as you define their characteristics. There are many entrepreneurs out there in high-tech, to restaurants, to non-profits, to retail, to motels, to singers, to artists that limiting them to the characteristics as you define them is limiting. I think your characteristics of entrepreneurs tend to define those in high-tech.

Now I think that all of those people in those different industries have a drive to make a difference or an impact on their world and that is, to me, a defining trait. Whether they are confident or arrogant or otherwise doesn’t really matter to me. Confidence comes with practice which helps with one’s belief in oneself.

As for the gender discussion, as I mentioned earlier make it a goal to invest in more women led businesses whether in tech or not. Hire a women venture partner. People hire, work with, and are attracted to people who are similar. Once women were more accepted in the medical profession, there has been a drastic increase in women doctors. In the accounting profession which used to be mostly men, now at the mid manager and lower level it’s almost 50/50 women…women still have a harder time getting to partner because of the lifestyle.

I’ll be interested in reading about your research into this topic.

I then happened upon a post on TechCrunch by Vivek Wadhwa called A Fix for Discrimination: Follow the Indian Trails.   He discusses how Indians have managed to achieve success in Silicon Valley, and he starts the post by saying:

Women, Hispanics and blacks have always been underrepresented in the ranks of the Valley’s tech companies.  A new analysis by the Mercury Newslast post on the dearth of tech women shows that from 2000 to 2008, the proportion of women tech workers in Silicon Valley dropped from 25.3% to 23.8%, and that the national numbers dropped from 30% to 27.4%.  In 2008, blacks and Hispanics constituted only 1.5% and 4.7% respectively of the Valley’s tech population — well below national tech-population averages of 7.1% and 5.3%. It seems that the problem I highlighted in my is actually getting worse, particularly in Silicon Valley.  And it’s not just the women who are being left out, but also important minority groups.”

He later says:

Thirty years ago, there were hardly any Silicon Valley firms with Indian-born founders.  UC-Berkeley’s AnnaLee Saxenian documented that 7% of tech companies started in 1980–1998 had an Indian founder.  A survey conducted by my research team at Duke University found that this proportion had increased to 15.5% from 1995 to 2005. My team also determined that in this period, Indians started 6.7% of the nation’s tech and engineering firms.  These are pretty astonishing numbers considering that according to the U.S. census, in 2000 less than 0.7% of the U.S. population and only 6% of the Silicon Valley high-tech workforce was born in India.

So whether people tell you that you have entrepreneurial characteristics or not, if you want to do something and make a difference…JUST DO IT!  You may make it, you may not but you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

The Economy and Entrepreneurs – Hold On!
Mar 17 2008

oryx-antelope.jpgUnless you live under a rock or don’t drive a car, you have no doubt heard about or felt the state of the US economy.  It’s in a state of well let’s say ‘confusion’ with indications it’s moving in the wrong direction.  Gas prices are at record highs, people are filing for bankruptcy, they are losing their homes, the government has a record amount of debt, the stock market is going down, etc. etc.

So where does this leave us entrepreneurs who want to raise funds to take their businesses to the next level?  Well, that’s a good question and a challenging one to answer.

I’ve had a handful of meetings with potential investors and a couple of them have expressed interest in participating, but they might change their minds given what’s going on in the economy.  As the saying goes “It’s not in the bank, until it’s in the bank!”  Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist in NYC, linked in his Read the Blogs post to a post on the Bear Stearns bailout by JP Morgan, which illustrates why even if you think it’s in the bank, it might not actually really be in the bank!  Our personal savings accounts are also going down with the market.

I had several conversations with entrepreneurs coming from different parts of the country at SXSW Interactive who have been struggling for a while to raise funds for businesses that are up and running with strong visitor and user traction.

So despite only being less than two months into the process, all of this has forced me to revaluate my fundraising plans for Babble Soft.  Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart as there are many ups, downs, and false starts.  The economy changes however have a huge impact on the success or failure of a startup.  If the economy is doing great you get all sorts of crazy new ideas/businesses popping up with chances to live and prove themselves.  If it’s bad, even the companies with wonderful ideas can suffer, die out, or never even get a chance to shine.

The good news is that of all the industries out there (except for maybe the alcohol industry), the baby market is fairly recession proof.   People don’t stop having babies nor do they stop buying things for their babies or things to help them take care of their babies.  The bad news is that what we are trying to do at Babble Soft does not yet have a predefined “mental need or want” (because it’s so new) like say bouncy chairs, bright/shiny toys, Baby Einstein videos, or diapers.

On the plus side, we have not taken any outside money to date so we don’t have to worry about how and when we pay investors back like some other start-up companies.  The downside is that if we don’t raise money right now, it will take longer to bring the exciting, potentially life changing vision I have to the world or worse we might miss the market opportunity.

I’m still trying to figure out the best plan of action.  I wish we had more money to create a new user experience, enhance our current applications, and create new applications ourselves.  I’m evaluating trying to raise a smaller amount of money and growing slower.  Now’s the time when the creative juices start flowing!

If you know an entrepreneur, give them a hug (if you can’t give ‘em money) because it’s going to be a tough roller coaster ride for the next probably year or so.  Some will be able to hang on and emerge stronger and better, some will get off gracefully, others might fall off unexpectedly, and yet others will wish they had fallen off before they lost their money and lost some of their sanity. :-)

If any of you have any thoughts, advice, virtual hugs, or even questions please share below…

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, fundraising, venture capital | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

My Fundraising Toolkit
Jan 10 2008

sears-toolkit.jpgFollowing on my Other People’s Money – The Hunt Begins post, I thought it might be interesting to share what I will be putting in my Fundraising Toolkit.  Check out The Entrepreneurial 7 Year Itch to get some additional background.

I plan to raise seed financing from angel investors for Babble Soft, and here’s what I will have in my toolkit.

An Executive Summary.  Thankfully people have moved away from the 35 to 40 page business plans that used to be required when I raised money for my first company.  Now it’s easier to get your foot in the door with a 5 to 7 page summary.   If they are interested, they will ask for additional information.  In a typical Executive Summary you will see sections on: 

  • The Company
  • The Problem
  • The Solution (i.e., Your Products)
  • The Market (including Competitors)
  • The People
  • The Numbers (i.e., the Financial Projections).

Financial Projections.  In my opinion, creating Financial Projections for an Internet startup is often an exercise in futility that shows you have an idea of how you will make money.  Most experienced technology investors know that predicting the future is a crazy process at best especially when you are starting from ground zero and success primarily depends on many viral factors.  Financial projections for IBM are much different than financial projections for an Internet start-up.  The assumptions you make are the most important part of the model as they give the investor an idea of the homework you have done on the market. 

Some venture capitalists like high profile Fred Wilson (a.k.a. A VC in NYC) of Union Square Ventures go as far to say that sometimes you can wait to scale before figuring out and executing your business model when describing his stance on Twitter’s lack of a current business model

Since Babble Soft is not Twitter, I’m not already a gazillionaire, and I have a million things to do, I have a sharp MBA student, Anand Balasubramanian, helping me create an Advertising and Subscription based model.  I love energetic, rock star, cheap, student help!  He has done a great job so far building a simple, easy to understand financial model for me.

Visuals.  Since I’ll be raising funds for products that do not exist yet, I have engaged a great local design, user experience, and information architecture firm, Projekt202, to create a few mock-up pages illustrating both the web and mobile components of our new applications.  They seem as excited about the vision as I am and are taking on some of the financial risk with me.  It makes me so happy when I find people who get what I’m trying to do!  I’ll also have a demo account of Baby Insights and Baby Say Cheese ready to log in to demonstrate our existing applications.

An Investor Leads List.  However you choose to keep track of your calls, meetings, and referrals it’s important to do so.  I have met entrepreneurs who want to raise funds who aren’t organized about the process and end up looking a bit flighty.   Unfortunately the investors are allowed to be flighty but they usually don’t tolerate too much flightiness in entrepreneurs.  Remember:  “She who has the gold makes the rules.”  After a while it’s easy to forget what you promised to get to whom and who referred you to whom.  It’s important to remember at what stage of the investing dance you are in with each potential investor.  On this spreadsheet I plan to keep track of:

  • Name
  • Contact Information
  • Professional Background
  • Who Referred Them to Me
  • Investment History
  • Typical Investment Size
  • What Items They Need From Me, and
  • Personal Assessment on the likelihood they will invest. 

Passion Tempered With Wits.  I think that often the big thing that can swing an investor, especially an angel investor who has been in your shoes before when building his/her company is your passion.   Why are you doing this when there are much easier ways to make a buck?  What will keep you going?  What excites you about the business?  I am passionate about helping new parents and caregivers connect and find answers.  I am passionate about building a business.   I am passionate about finding great people to work with.   If that passion is tempered with some logical thinking, that’s a big huge ‘ole plus!  All of us entrepreneurs are a bit crazy at times so I just hope I don’t lose my wits in the middle of an investor pitch!

Since I am still working on everything above except for my passion which has recently been reignited, I’ve got a lot to do before the meetings I already have set up with potential investors in the next couple of months.  If you have suggestions on other things I should have in my fundraising toolkit, let me know by leaving a comment below.  It’s been a while since I have raised money and I’m always open to learning new things.

Join me for the journey.  Subscribe to the blog and hold on to your stomachs, it’s bound to be a scary roller coaster ride at times!

UPDATE Jan 12, 2007:  Found|Read republished this very post  on their blog and called it My Funding Toolkit.  Check out that post for some great comments!  They have many more readers than my blog currently does so I’m delighted that they chose to share it with their readers!

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